Friday, 26 April 2013

Superdrug Vitamin E Skin Care : SPF 15 Moisturising Day Cream

I have such a lovely treat to share with you today! 
One of the things I mentioned in my post about beating adult acne (HERE) was the importance of keeping your skin moisturised. In the past I have struggled to find a moisturiser that suits my skin, ie. acne prone, combination skin, with dry cheeks, but also aged over 30. I need something rich enough to deal with the fact I am no longer a fresh faced teenager with dewy skin that barely needs moisturising at all, but at the same time it needs to play nicely with acne prone skin (which most 30+ products don't). I got pretty sick of forking out £12+ for a so called wonder product that turned my face into pizza in two days flat and ended up in the bin, so for a long time I just got by with a completely inadequate teenage oil free anti-acne moisturiser topped up with a pump of serum here and there. Until now. Enter Superdrug Vitamin E Moisturising Day Cream. 

I was just browsing the shelves in Superdrug one day when I stumbled across their Vitamin E range which was on a 2 for 1 offer at the time. I'd already tried their hot cloth cleanser and nourishing oil and loved them both, so I thought maybe it was worth picking up some of the other things in the range. I got two different day creams, a night cream, and an eye cream. I'll be reviewing them all here soon but for today here is the SPF 15 Moisturising Day Cream.
All of the products in this range have the same scent, which is gorgeous. It's a subtle smell, reminiscent of coconut or possibly sun tan lotion.The cream is rich enough that it leaves my face feeling beautifully moisturised, but not so much that it is still sat on my face feeling greasy half an hour later. I hate that!! You know when a cream is so rich, it just won't sink in, and the stuff turns to gross little beads on your face if you rub it? None of that here. PHEW. It takes just a few minutes to sink in and then I'm ready to go. 
It contains SPF 15 (important if you don't want wrinkles!) and most importantly of all for me it doesn't make me break out at all. Since using this cream, my skin has looked one heck of a lot better too. My dry cheeks aren't dry any more, my greasy areas are behaving themselves, and my skin is actually starting to 'glow' for the first time in I don't know how long. I knew this was the right moisturiser for me after I'd been using it for a week... my son kept touching my cheeks and when I asked him why, he said 'because your face is so soft and smooth now Mum!'

One of the best bits?  Even when it's not on special offer, this stuff only costs £2.99 for 100ml! Honestly the only bad thing I can think of to say about it is that it's in a jar and not a pump or a squeezy tube - so it's marginally less convenient to use without getting cream stuck underneath your nails. But seriously? At under £3 a pop I really can't moan... I'll just spend some of that money I've saved on a little spatula to scoop it out with instead!

Monday, 22 April 2013

African Black Soap

If you read my article about Adult Acne HERE you may have noticed me singing the praises of African Black Soap, and for good reason; it's pretty much the best thing I have ever put on my face. Made by hand in Africa (I get mine from THIS eBay seller, who gets it from a fair trade woman's cooperative in upper east Ghana), African Black Soap is a traditional herbal soap made from cocoa shells, plantain skins, coconut oil, shea butter and water (no nasty chemicals - SLS etc not welcome here!). It has been used for hundreds of years and is legendary for its' abilities to treat acne, eczema, body odours, dry skin, rashes, ringworm and just about every other skin condition known to man. You can use it all over your body and even as a shampoo (I haven't tried it on my hair but apparently it's good for itchy scalps too.
I'm not going to lie... it looks pretty terrible. It's brown and lumpy and weird looking: everyone in my house calls it 'Mum's Turd Soap' and pulls faces whenever I happen to leave a piece in the soap dish with the regular soap bar. But believe me, appearances are deceptive and I am more than prepared to deal with the way it looks for the results it has given me. This stuff is amazing. In my first two weeks of using this soap, it cleared up ALL of the active acne on my face (acne which was even resisting the effects of Quinoderm, previously the only thing that even came close to curing it for me). I went from having at least 3 or 4 active spots at any given moment, to none at all. By the end of the third week, most of my stubborn blackheads that just. wouldn't. quit. despite years of trying to treat them had also vanished, and the few that remain are also decreasing. Two months later, I haven't had a single breakout. My skin is smoother, the patch of psoriasis that always tries to appear on my nose seems to have given up and gone away, and all my old blemish marks and acne scars are starting to fade too. 

The type I have is unscented: it smells a bit earthy and herbal due to the fact it's a natural product but nothing offensive or overpowering. I have seen scented versions too but can't vouch for them as I have only tried the regular kind. You can also get it pressed into solid bars or made into a liquid form in a pump topped bottle. Be careful if buying bars, especially if they are a commercial brand rather than the hand-made kind; many of them aren't 'proper' black soap at all. Instead they are a commercialised and beautified copy of the real thing and, while they look more like 'regular' soap bars they won't have the same medicated properties. Proper black soap is brown, not black (some companies add black dye to theirs), crumbly and a little soft. You can also get it with and without shea butter added; I'd recommend always getting the shea butter version as it can be a little drying otherwise (though no more than any other soap and this is easily rectified with a good moisturiser afterwards). 

What I like about this soap:
It's basically the holy grail for acne. This stuff has achieved more results for me in 3 weeks than 20 years of conventional acne treatments combined.
It's natural and gentle, has no nasty chemicals or additives
It's fair trade!
It's cheap and lasts for ages (£5 worth is about 6 months' supply for me as a daily facial soap).

What I don't like about this soap:
Let's just say it's never going to win a beauty contest :-p
If used on broken skin/active acne it can sometimes sting a little (nothing unbearable though and worth it for the fact that acne will soon be gone anyway!)


Saturday, 20 April 2013

Beating Adult Acne : 7 Steps to Better Skin

Alright people, it's TMI time. (Yes, I know it's not Thursday. We'll call it TMI Friday instead, okay?)

Today I'm going to talk about Adult Acne. It's going to be a long one, but hopefully it will help some of you ladies who, like me, have been struggling to get clear skin despite no longer being in your teens.

I don't think there are many people whose faces didn't turn into dermatological pizza at least to some extent when they were teenagers, but for some people the hell doesn't stop when puberty subsides. 1 in 5 adults between the ages of 25 and 40 will suffer from acne and at least 80% of those are women. One of those women is me; I've spent the last 20 years fighting my own face (at least that's how it's felt) and quite frankly, it's been a long, expensive and emotional road. Until now. I'm glad to say that I have finally beaten my acne!!

This is how my skin looks now, sans make up.
It isn't perfect by any means. There are still blemishes, and acne scars, but it's a world away from the way it looked this time last year (pictures HERE, HERE, and HERE, hidden behind links to protect the squeamish!) and I can honestly say my skin is now the best it's looked for 20 years!

There's a ton of information about acne out there, but the trouble is, it's usually conflicting and confusing, and often just tries to sell you stuff (which is frequently nothing but snake oil anyway). Looking back at all the things I've tried, I realise that I wasted a lot of time and money on barking up the wrong tree entirely! There is a whole list of things I wish I'd known a long time ago: it would have made my struggle a lot easier and shorter! In the interests of maybe helping some of the other reluctantly spotty ladies out there, here is that list. Please note that I am NOT a dermatologist. I'm a biochemist, so I know a thing or two about science, but I wouldn't even begin to claim that I am an expert in skincare. These are just the things that I have learned help my own skin and they may or may not help you too.

1. Seek medical advice

If you have acne, the first place you should go is the doctor.  Do not be afraid that your skin is not bad enough for medical intervention, or that the doctor will laugh you out of the room. He won't. He has a whole arsenal of things that can help, as do Pharmacists (though there are some things only doctors can prescribe). While they may not be as attractively packaged or pleasantly scented as things you buy in the drugstore, the chances are they'll work a lot better and will cost you less money in the long run too. While you're showing your acne to the doctor, also have a discussion about whether or not you need to change your method of birth control. Acne is massively influenced by hormones, whether that's our own, or the artificial kind we use to stop ourselves from having babies. You can use all the acne treatments in the world but if your skin is freaking out over hormones (whether that's too much, too little, or the wrong kind), you're going to be fighting an uphill battle all the way. Often, starting, stopping, or changing the type of birth control you use, can make a huge difference to your skin. You may need to be patient and try a few things before you figure out what works best (and for me that was the progesterone implant), but believe me, it's worth persevering.

2. Keep it Simple

It is very tempting to rush out and buy every acne face wash, gel, cleansing wipe, scrub and cream you can get your hands on, and then scrub the life out of your face hoping that the spots will magically go away. Try not to do this as it can actually be counter-productive: acne products (especially those aimed at teenagers) can be very harsh and drying to the skin and it is very likely that your face will reward your efforts with twice as much acne as you had in the first place (I speak from painful experience here). Choose just one or two key things that you know definitely work, and stick to them; your skin will thank you for it.
My daily skincare routine only involves two specifically anti-acne products: Quinoderm cream (reviewed HERE), and African Black Soap, which is legendary for its ability to help treat pretty much any skin condition from acne to eczema and everything in between (I'll be reviewing this soon).

3. Keep it Moist

I make sure my skin is moisturised well at all times. It might seem like a bad idea to moisturise: people can get paranoid about greasing up their skin and think that moisturiser will cause their acne to get worse. Actually it's quite the opposite. You NEED moisture. Dry skin is unhappy skin; it will produce extra sebum to try and fix itself and extra sebum equals extra acne. The trick (which might require a bit of trial and error) is to find a moisturiser which will suit your skin, especially if you have dry areas - it's a myth that acne prone skin is automatically greasy skin, ya know. You want something that is simple and gentle, but not so rich it will block your pores. Things which say 'non comodogenic' are usually good, as they are supposedly not pore-blocking. Things which leave your face still feeling claggy over half an hour later are generally bad - ideally it should disappear into the skin within a few minutes and leave it feeling moisturised, but not greasy. My current favourite is the Superdrug Vitamin E range (again, review coming very soon!).

4. Keep it Clean

This might seem obvious, but nevertheless, I can't stress it enough: DO NOT SLEEP IN YOUR MAKE UP. I don't care how pure and wonderful the packaging claims it is. That make up has been on your face all day long, picking up germs, dust, sweat, debris, grease and dirt, and if you don't take it off before bed it's all going to sit there all night too, having a right old party in your pores, which will more than likely get blocked and infected. Nice. At the risk of sounding like a right old minger, I always used to sleep in my make up and take it off the next morning. I didn't think it made that much difference, but it really does. Now I take it off every night before bed and my skin is so much better for it. If I forget or get lazy for a few days, I soon wish I hadn't!!

5. Check Your Make Up

The day I switched from traditional liquid foundation to mineral powder foundation, my skin all but cheered. It turns out all that make up I was using to hide my acne, was actually part of the problem: I can wear as much powder as I like, but if I drift back to liquid, I get maybe two or three days grace, then dermatological Armageddon occurs. I'm not saying that powder is the holy grail, or that liquid foundation is evil; but everyone's skin is different and it's very possible that certain types of make up, ingredients or additives just don't agree with your face. (Silicones, waxes, fragrances and SPF are just a few things which tend to cause problems for acne sufferers). It's definitely worth looking at the things you put on your face and maybe trying to use different formulations for a while, to see if it helps.

6. Check Your Diet

Studies have shown that a bad diet does not automatically cause acne. However, there is evidence from both clinical trials and observational studies to suggest that diet CAN make existing acne worse. Particular culprits include dairy products, sugar, saturated fats and processed foods, so if you currently eat a lot of these, it might help to cut down. Dairy is definitely a trigger for my skin: the more I eat, the spottier I get, and my skin is definitely better when I avoid junk food!

7. Be Patient

The only thing that Acne does quickly is get worse. Whatever you try, if it doesn't seem to be doing much, give it a reasonable amount of time before giving up and trying something else: a couple of weeks if it's a cleanser, a couple of months if it's a treatment cream. If you've changed your birth control it may take even longer: it took almost a year for my skin to settle down from the enormous flare up I experienced when I started using the depo injection, though with the implant that I eventually switched to, it only took a few weeks for my skin to normalise. Go figure.

And... that's it! 7 steps to better skin. It worked for me, and I really hope it will help other people too!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The Body Shop: Shea Body Mist

Are you all enjoying the nice weather that's finally starting to appear? Though it's a bit hit and miss at the moment, with rain one minute and sun the next, hopefully it'll settle down soon and I can finally stop wearing so many layers of clothes! One thing I like to do once the weather gets warmer is break out all the body mists and lighter perfumes that have languished in my drawer all winter; I tend to wear stronger scents while it's cold since there's all that thick knitwear keeping the fragrance from reaching people's noses!

In honour of the impending spring, and because I had such a good experience with the Coconut and Moringa scents I reviewed here, I decided to treat myself to another of the Body Shop's lovely body mists: Shea. Like the others in this range, you get 100ml of product in a glass bottle, though they seem to have gone up in price since the last time I was there; they used to be £7, now they're £7.50. Still not a bad price considering how much you get, though.
Scent wise this is really, really lovely. It's sweet, nutty, earthy and creamy, a little bit like coconut, but fresher and more subtle. It's a lot weaker than the Moringa and Coconut scents, though - this may be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your own personal tastes, for me it's a bad thing as ten squirts usually wears off in about three hours for me, whereas the same amount of sprays of the Moringa and Coconut would last me pretty much all day. This wouldn't be a problem if it came in a plastic bottle, as I could just throw it in my bag and top it up during the day, but I'm reluctant to do that with glass.

What I liked:
It smells GORGEOUS.
The packaging is understated, but attractive. The glass makes it feel and look more luxurious than it would do if it were plastic, plus I like the way each bottle has the central image (nut, flower, fruit, whatever) with the Body Shop logo superimposed over it - simple but pretty. I have all three of my Body Shop mists out on my dressing table as they're too nice to hide away!

What I didn't like:
It doesn't last as long as I'd like, and while for many people the more subtle scent will be a plus, I would prefer it to be a little stronger. I'm thinking of getting the Eau de Toilette in the same scent and layering the two for a longer lasting and stronger effect.
The bottle is too large and fragile to carry in a handbag.